BEST MUSIC OF 2014
It was the year when the sound of eighties synths and vocals swamped in reverb continued unabated, a colour that seems to have been in vogue on both sides of the Atlantic for at least five years. The year when Kate came back and folk swooned while nobody really noticed gems like Withered Hand’s New Gods and Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes To Love. The year when lavish praise was poured over the Parquet Courts album in spite of it being stuffed with direct lifts from the history of post-punk; The Feelies and The Fall especially. When Paulo Nutini attempted to make an enormous soul/pop album and somehow managed to remain utterly charming and brilliant in spite of missing his target by a country mile. When Leonard Cohen, yet again released an album of faultless songs irreparably marred by horrifically cheap production and female backing vocalists who wouldn’t be out of place on a ghastly Two Ronnies pop parody. When James Yorkston quietly put out the best produced and most genre-defying album a Scottish act has come up with in a decade. When Jack White again proved that nobody in mainstream rock can catch him for slipperiness and sheer melodic invention and when Arial Pink made a prog-rock/math-pop album of such stunning weirdness it may be mentioned in the same breath as Skip Spence’s Oar come the great day of rock judgement. When Columbia finally released most everything from the Basement Tapes vaults proving that even out-of-tune, unfinished and appallingly recorded and performed songs can somehow be magically listenable for the sheer lunatic commitment of the musicians involved. And finally, a year when lyrics came back with a vengeance as evinced by Sun Kil Moon’s harrowing, heartbreaking and hilarious Benji.
In no particular order…
TV On The Radio: Trouble (from Seeds)
Ariel Pink: Black Ballerina, White Freckles, Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade (from Pom Pom)
A Sunny Day In Glasgow: In Love With Useless (from Sea When Absent)
Sharon Van Etten: Afraid Of Nothing (from Are We There)
Ought: Habit (from More Than Every Other Day)
The War On Drugs: Under The Pressure, Red Eyes, Eyes To The Wind (from Lost In The Dream)
Withered Hand: California, New Gods, Horseshoe (from New Gods)
Sun Kil Moon: I Watched The Film The Sun Remained The Same, Pray For Newtown, I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love (from Benji)
Naomi Bedford: Wild And Charming Energy, The Watches Of The Night (from A History Of Insolence)
Peter Matthew Bauer: Irish Wake In Varanasi (from Liberation!)
Perfect Pussy: I (Live), Interference Fits (from Say Yes To Love)
Angel Olsen: White Fire, Hi-Five (from Burn Your Fire For No Witness)
James Yorkston: Broken Wave, Guy Fawkes’ Signature (from The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society)
Hamilton Leithaser: I Don’t Need Anyone (from Black Hours)
As a postscript I’d like to mention Father John Misty’s astonishing cover of Leonard Cohen’s One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong which came out a few years ago but only cropped up on my digital card-deck shuffle in October. It tears your skin off. Also Danny Brown’s Lonely from Old which came out late last year.
And lastly, I should mention the Aphex Twin album, Spyro, which I have on vinyl. Because I couldn’t figure out the fucking free download thing I have only managed to listen to it completely mangled – that seems to be the time my vinyl gets aired these days. As a result of being in such an altered state I became convinced that it contained one of the most radical tracks I’d ever heard until I realised I’d been listening to the needle scraping round and round the label for forty minutes. Just goes to show you how much one’s mental state is responsible for how we perceive quality. And also what a fucking wanker I am.
Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year when it arrives.